What happens if you lose a no win no fee case?

No win, no fee (sometimes known as no win, no pay) is now a standard offering among certain types of law such as workers compensation, road injury claims and public place injury cases. It offers a number of advantages such as access to justice and nothing to pay upfront but is it really risk-free if you lose? With most firms, the answer is no. While you technically might not owe your law firm any fees if you lose, you may still get left out of pocket.

Beware of hidden risks

Hidden risk information

No win, no fee seems like a no-brainer. Don’t win, don’t pay seems to be the message. However, the vast majority of law firms offering no win, no fee compensation have hidden risks hidden within the small print of their client agreements. If your case goes to court and you lose, you might be liable for the other sides costs and other expenses which could be very expensive. Unlike most firms, Smith's protects you from all risks with our 'No Win. No Fee. No Catch' promise which means nothing to pay us or anyone else if you lose. 

Injured? Get expert advice now: Smith's are Queensland's only 100% risk-free injury compensation lawyers. Insist on our 'No Win. No Fee. No Catch' ® promise. Check your rights with no risk or obligations now and talk direct to our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith. Call 1800 266 801 OR  check if you can claim

Below is a breakdown of what can happen if you lose before reaching court or once in court.

If a case ends before going to court

No win no fee settlement conference

A high number of compensation cases are settled before reaching court. Typically this would be at a so-called 'compulsory conference' between your law firm and the at-fault parties insurer (such as CTP insurer of the at-fault driver or WorkCover for work injuries). At this stage, if you lose then you should not be left out of pocket with most law firms (although you should always check for hidden risks).

  • The ‘no win, no fee’ agreement means you don’t owe any money for legal fees to your law firm
  • As the case is not in court, the other side (insurer) does not have the power to charge you for their costs
  • Most law firms will not pass on their so-called ‘outgoings’ on the case such as expert medical reports they had produced for the case.


If your case is unsuccessful pre-court then your law firm may recommend ending the claim at this point or progressing the matter to court. It’s the claims that go to court that come with the biggest risks.

If a case ends up in court

Personal injury court

If your case progresses to court then there are substantial risks with the majority of no win, no fee law firms. If you lose then;

  • The other side (insurer) can apply to the court for you to be liable for your costs. These would typically be payable by yourself rather than your law firm and often reach six-figure sums.
  • In some cases, it is even possible that your law firm may pass on so-called ‘outgoings’ they incurred along the way such as medical reports and on occasions even post and printing costs.

This represents a major risk with most no win, no fee agreements. While it will be covered in the client agreement fine print it is rarely stated on advertisements or websites of no win, no fee law firms.

All compensation claims with Smith's Lawyers are 100% risk-free. All our clients are covered by Queensland's first risk-free compensation promise, 'No Win. No Fee. No Catch' which protects you for all financial risks, even in the unlikely event that the claim is unsuccessful in court.

Next steps - get advice now

It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

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Last update on:
March 2, 2020
Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation. For expert advice call 1800 266 801 or chat via live chat to arrange free initial advice with our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

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